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Mercyhurst's Brad McGarry takes AIM on the road

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Brad McGarry, director of the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM), speaks today at the Autism at Work Summit in Philadelphia, continuing his outspoken advocacy for vocational resources and opportunities for adults on the autism spectrum.

The Summit is hosted by SAP America and will include executives from major companies that have committed to the largest autism employment initiative in history. McGarry will be a panelist on “Building Bridges between the Education System & Labor Market,” addressing how college programs can prepare students on the autism spectrum to enter the workforce. Another panel, on “Building Bridges and Removing Barriers,” will focus on successful efforts by companies like SAP, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard to hire those students, capitalizing on traits that often make them extremely productive employees.

For McGarry, it’s just one of a series of trips this spring designed to secure vocational resources for AIM students while ensuring that AIM is on the radar of the national autism community as well as agencies and government programs that assist the disabled.

In early March, McGarry and AIM Coordinator Paulina Wielandt visited Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings coordinated by the Ridge Policy Group. They connected with most of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation at a networking session and met with officials including Jennifer Sheehy, deputy secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

“She already knew about Mercyhurst and AIM through our involvement with Autism Speaks,” McGarry noted. “More and more we’re discovering that our reputation precedes us.”

In mid-March, McGarry presented at the University of Michigan Depression Center Conference. He discussed the Mercyhurst program and how navigating the college experience and finding meaningful employment combats anxiety and depression.

Eight AIM students will join McGarry on a trip to New York City May 5-7. They’ll engage in mock interviews and work on résumé development with staff at ASTEP (the Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership) and meet with leaders at Autism Speaks.

In mid-June, McGarry and Mercyhurst University will host an educational summit sponsored by the Angelman Syndrome Foundation. McGarry has been active with the foundation as an advocate for his son, Connor, who lives with Angelman syndrome, a complex genetic disorder that primarily affects the nervous system and results in delayed development, intellectual disability, severe speech impairment, and problems with movement and balance.

The summit will gather up to 18 top experts in various fields – including autism, disability, neurology, psychiatry, ABA, communication, technology integration, and more – to produce papers and an eventual book on working with disabilities. McGarry will discuss inclusion, transitions, and educational services for adults.

The Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst, founded in 2008, serves students diagnosed with High Functioning Autism who, while exhibiting superior intellectual abilities, face challenges in executive functioning and social interaction. It was later expanded to include a Career Path Program to ensure that students were prepared for meaningful employment after graduation.

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